BMC Survey: The Mainframe’s Undeath

    One of the fascinating things about this year’s BMC survey results, which I was briefed on last week, was that more than 30 years after the market concluded that the mainframe was dead, it is actually getting stronger. This isn’t a zombie technology; it appears to be an immortal one. And with the exception of small companies, investment in IBM mainframes continues to increase. It appears the massive I/O advantage mainframes have over other servers is even more highly valued in a web world. Let’s walk through the highlights and numbers associated with this year’s survey.

    Survey Sample

    It is always best to look at the sample to see if it is representative of the general population. This year’s sample was made up of 1184 respondents representing both BMC and non-BMC mainframe customers. Eighty-one percent of the sample was made up of technology professionals or folks that did real work, 12 percent were executives who are expert at buzz words, and 7 percent weren’t classified (I’m guessing they were folks that either didn’t know what they did or folks that loved to fill out surveys).

    Sixty percent of the respondents came from North America, 31 percent came from Europe, and 9 percent came from Asia. The majority (62 percent) of the companies had revenue of over $1B. Forty-five percent were in finance and insurance, 20 percent were in government, 12 percent were technology companies, and 2 percent were in something else.

    Confidence interval, according to the folks who pulled the sample is + or – 2.5 percent, or a 5 percent range.

    Survey Results

    The people that believe the mainframe is still a strategic asset worth investing in number 93 percent. When you consider the confidence interval, this is basically flat year over year. There is an indication, because 2012 was at 90 percent, that this is actually trending up, but you’d need to see a multiple year trend to confirm this. About half, both in 2012 and 2013, believe the mainframe will actually attract new workloads, supporting this strategic positioning.

    It is interesting to note that not only are the majority of large companies increasingly confident that their mainframes will increase new workloads, this perception grew from 53 percent to 62 percent from 2012 to 2013, while the response from medium-size companies shrank from 52 percent to 46 percent and small companies were flat. The biggest companies plan to significantly increase their use of mainframes, which is clearly driving growth projections and both hardware and software mainframe revenues over the period.

    MIPS growth will come from 57 percent of these companies, with most (33 percent) doing both legacy and new app growth, 17 percent legacy only, and 7 percent new apps, suggesting that legacy software remains the strongest driver for mainframe growth. This should be intuitive and these results are almost identical year over year.

    When the minority who are decreasing their mainframe footprint were asked why, 56 percent this year and 63 percent last year indicated that it was due to excessive software costs. Around 55 percent in both years indicated the change was driven by managers who believed their mainframes were obsolete (these aren’t mutually exclusive responses). Cost of hardware was 44 percent over both years. The belief that other computer types were cheaper represented 51 percent last year, dropping to 41 percent this year, suggesting that the respondents now believe the mainframe is a better value.

    This investment in the mainframe is largely being driven by four things and 2013 is nearly identical to 2012: Platform availability (mainframes are seen as vastly more reliable), superior security, superior data serving, and transaction handling make this platform stand out as clearly very competitive.

    Handling of the painful shortage of mainframe users/administrators is led by internal training (52 percent), followed by searching for qualified candidates (39 percent), outsourcing to mainframe services firms (34 percent), and automation (29 percent), eliminating the need for this class of worker.

    The top four priorities for the respondents are cost reduction/optimization (85 percent), reflecting that we are still in a very cost-focused world; application availability (66 percent) and business-IT alignment (52 percent); showcasing the traditional focus on supporting line organizations; and modernization (50 percent), suggesting that many are beginning to invest in their futures again.

    The breakdown of the modernization statistic indicates a huge focus on next-generation technology, with 38 percent citing this as their primary reason, significantly exceeding any other reason. When you look under IT alignment, you see a similar driver, in this case 48 percent are focused on improving business agility.

    One final piece of information seemed interesting to me. When it comes to data analytics (and on a mainframe this would be Big Data), about half do it off the mainframe and around a third on the mainframe. I’m guessing the rest is mixed.

    Wrapping Up: The Mainframe Is Undead

    While these are clearly all companies using their mainframes strategically, most firms are continuing to invest in this unique platform and not only don’t plan to turn it off, plan to increase their investment. These surveys drive BMC product development; if you agree with the majority, the company likely has a tool or a solution that will make your mainframe more efficient. One of the newest is called Cost Analyzer for zEnterprise, which highlights which mainframe areas will provide the greatest return on your related investment.

    Finally, just in time for Halloween next month, a survey that clearly points out that your mainframe is undead.

    Rob Enderle
    As President and Principal Analyst of the Enderle Group, Rob provides regional and global companies with guidance in how to create credible dialogue with the market, target customer needs, create new business opportunities, anticipate technology changes, select vendors and products, and practice zero dollar marketing. For over 20 years Rob has worked for and with companies like Microsoft, HP, IBM, Dell, Toshiba, Gateway, Sony, USAA, Texas Instruments, AMD, Intel, Credit Suisse First Boston, ROLM, and Siemens.

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